The hatred of being libelled politician has kept many practicing Muslims away from politics in Nigeria. In Nigeria, the word ‘politician’ instantly creates an image of a very corrupt person whose corruption is absolutely incurable. Some even think every Nigerian politician is a potbelly individual who craves for filthy wealth and is determined to steal public resources at the expense of the masses. In a nut shell, Nigerian politicians are generally perceived as very corrupt, irresponsible, immoral, useless, selfish, power drunk, and whatnot. Though I cannot controvert this perception, I can argue there are exceptions.
This ugly reality might have befogged the thinking faculty of some Vote Haram scholars to conclude that democracy is kufr (disbelief). The torrential voice of these scholars against participation in everything that has to do with democracy and the Hell with which they threaten their audience can potently distance any would-be-voter from exercising their civil right to vote—for the fear of being thrown into Hell.
But these scholars do not have the monopoly of understanding or interpretation of religious text. Their major evidences against voting and democracy are the Qur’an verses (5: 44 and 12: 40); “whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are disbelievers,” and “The judgement is for none but Allah.” Before them, some misguided elements had used similar argument against Ali (RA). This is, in the words of the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, “A word of truth by which falsehood is intended.” Explaining these verses within the context of democracy needs an entire column; and even more. I will not digress.
I have addressed the alleged Kufruness (disbelief) of democracy in previous articles and argued that that categorization is problematic. Democracy is not a clear-cut kufr as claimed. It is a system of government which underscores the prominence of majority in law making. If the majority of law makers are tyrannical, devilish, immoral, corrupt, and/or irreligious, that goes a long way to chart the direction of democracy spearheaded by them. The policy orientation and outputs of such democratic regime will definitely be antithetical to Islam and unfavourable to the Muslims.
On the contrary, if the majority of the law makers are noble, righteous, considerate, accommodating, and religious (even if nominal), it will positively affect the democratic orientation of the regime. Not only that, its policy outputs will not be diametrically opposed to Islam or any reasonable religion. This is because freedom of religion will be guaranteed and protected. No Muslim or non-Muslim will be persecuted on the ground of religion. This would have been the outcome of democracy in a multi religious state like Nigeria if the noble participate.
Learned and globally renowned Salafi scholars—dead and living—waded into this issue of Muslims’ participation in democracy and gave approving verdicts which range from permissibility and obligatoriness as I explained in my last column. Note that the Salafi scholars I mentioned here are not the fiery ones that want to forcefully admit us into Hell—if possible—against the will of God. There is nothing inherently bad in Salafism. Everything about Salafism is good. I insist again and again: Salafism or Salafiyyah is entirely an innocuous concept. But some of these modern ‘Salafists’ have turned the concept on its head and made it seems to mean ridiculous bigotry and senseless extremism. One needs to be uncritical, sheepish, robotic, bigoted, and mentally chained—in either scholarship or followership—to be a member of this modern ‘Salafiyyah’.
This is not to say all learned scholars all over the world approve of, and concede to, participation in modern democracy; they are other few who opined that it is not permissible. It is glaring that it is an issue of ‘Ijtihad’—a juristic exercise where competent scholars engage in juristic reasoning to arrive at a verdict. In that case, scholars will be rewarded for the outcome of their reasoning—may be right or wrong. What galvanized some of us to react to the campaign of these category of Vote Haram scholars in Nigeria was their threat of Hell to whosoever differs from their position on this issue. That is, voters will go to Hell and the sins and atrocities committed by those elected into office will be heaped and hurled at those who elected them.
Now let’s turn to the senselessness of the argument that the fatwa (verdict) of those learned scholars who approved Muslims’ participation in democracy is misunderstood or manipulated. These sheikhs (Ibn Baaz, Albani, Uthaymin [RA] and their ilk in that sterling category) held that is it permissible for Muslims to vote and contest in democratic system especially if the intention is to reform a corrupt system, establish justice and serve public interests. But these fiery ‘Salafists’ claimed the sheikhs’ fatwa on permissibility to vote only refers to Muslims in the West because they are in minority and would automatically lose their jobs if they refused to vote. This is a blatant lie!
Where in the Western World is voting compulsory? Where were/are Muslims sacked for not voting in the West? They should have mentioned at least one country. If they had done that, researchers, including my humble self, will be eager to verify the veracity of such claim and add more to our understanding of democracy. For to force people to vote is at variance with democracy. You have the freedom/choice to vote or not to vote. I agree there is a need to lie to make a pointless point sound like a plausible point, but that should be condescending to the status of scholars—Islamic scholars for that matter.
Since they argued democracy is kufr, how would these eminent sheikhs permit Muslims in the West to go to Hell and spared Muslims in Nigeria? Where is Muslim brotherhood in this? Why are Nigerian Muslims so loved by these scholars that they did not want us (Nigerian Muslims) go to Hell? How much hatred did these sheikhs had for the Western Muslims such that their only wish for them is to allow them participate in kufr (democracy) and go to Hell? How can democracy be a kufr to be tolerated only in the West but not in Nigeria? Does any degree of scholarship give any sheikh the ability to make the unlawful lawful and vice versa? Who did this to our thinking process? If that person is known, s/he should honestly not be forgiven. I have never encountered this kind of ‘scholarly’ reasoning in my entire life but now. What gives birth to this kind of reason is the inability of this fiery ‘Salafists’ to disagree with the aforementioned sheikhs because they consider them ‘untouchable’ who can neither go wrong nor be wronged.
Lastly, they argued that those Western Muslims who were favoured with the fatwa to participate in democracy have good intention to reform the system and protect the rights of the Muslims. That is to say, if you have a good intention to commit kufr you will be allowed to commit it and probably be rewarded for it. And because we (Nigerian Muslims) do not have good intention and are incapable of having it; therefore, our participation in elections (as voters or contestants) is kufr. This is against syllogism; I wish we can be syllogistic in reasoning. But can our so-called Salafists reason syllogistically? This illogicality is too nauseating to bear but our so-called Salafists want to force it down our throats. We must resist it.
I wish to conclude but I am yet to. In my next column, I will discuss how this Vote Haram advocacy reeks of hypocrisy. Meanwhile, keep your PVCs safely and get ready to vote when the time comes.